I believe it was Yogi Berra who famously once remarked “Baseball is 90% mental; the other half is physical.”
When it comes to the job hunting challenge, I couldn’t have said it better myself. While there’s certainly a ton of “physical” work involved in the process, such as making calls, doing research, meeting people for coffee, and the like, the bigger hurdle (in my opinion) is the mental one. Successful job hunting largely involves getting in the right mindset, letting go of outdated career concepts, and having the courage to push past the common mental/emotional obstacles that so frequently trip people up in this process.
That’s what the Burning Questions series on my blog is all about. Asking the tough questions that, if faced bravely and honestly, might help you acknowledge some fundamental things you may be doing to sabotage your success — and make breakthrough progress in learning how to sell yourself in today’s marketplace.
This month, the question I’d urge you to contemplate, if you’re seeking work, is “Would your job search impress an outside observer?”
Think about this for a second. Ask yourself whether you’d be eager/proud/excited to stride into an employer or recruiter’s office and walk them through the specific efforts you’re making to tackle the business challenge you’re currently facing — the challenge of finding work. Would they be blown away by your diligence, creativity, and organizational skills? Would they give you a high-five for your awe-inspiring “job search project management” skills? Or would they be largely underwhelmed, instead, to discover that you’re making a halfhearted effort of things, winging it, and/or pretty much just doing the same old things as everybody else?
Now if you can AFFORD to be out of work for a while, this might not be that big of a deal. But if you’re like a lot of people out there, seriously in need of a paycheck, it’s probably time to attack this challenge with every professional success trait you have at your disposal. If you’re a naturally creative person, get creative and come up with some wildly innovative approaches to this process, versus doing the same old stuff as everybody else. If you’re an organizational wizard, build and execute a methodical job-finding game plan packed with clear goals, metrics, and milestones. If you’re highly analytical, carefully track all of the steps you’re taking to generate leads, then analyze them to find out which methods are working well — and which aren’t.
At the end of day, though, the key is to set a high standard for yourself. Act as if, hypothetically, your next potential employer will be asking you to present your “job search plan” as a portfolio piece that will make-or-break their decision to hire you. If you act in this manner, I think good things are very likely to happen:
1) For starters, I believe (per the StrengthsFinder book series and other sources) that as we grow up, we develop our own unique strengths, gifts, and talents for responding to problems. Most people are very used to applying these success habits within a job environment, but amazingly, they tend to abandon and forget these qualities when it comes to facing the (less familiar) challenge of looking for a job. They’re in there, though. You’ve still got them. No reason you shouldn’t use them to conquer this challenge, too!
2) Action speaks louder than words. Future employers, as well as your networking contacts, will be watching closely to see how you respond to the unemployment challenge and whether you seem in control of your destiny — and taking active steps to solve the problem you’re facing — or whether you’ve retreated into a passive stance laden with traces of blame, bitterness, or victimhood.
3) Lastly, if you run your job hunt in a way that’s likely to impress others, there’s an awfully good chance you’ll end up impressing yourself along the way, as well. This notion, I truly believe, is the wellspring of confidence. To rehash an idea I’ve blogged about previously here and certainly didn’t originally think up, myself, the only sustainable source of self-esteem is to know, deep down, that you’re doing your best. So if you’re feeling unsure of yourself these days, do something about it. Commit to running the BEST job search campaign you possibly can, so that you can look yourself in the mirror, each day, and know you’re leaving it all out there.
Ultimately, of course, this entire concept is purely theoretical. As we all know, nobody (other than perhaps a nervous spouse) is looking over the shoulder of most job hunters and holding them accountable for their performance. But I think it’s smart to act as if you’re going to be graded in this regard. Are you truly getting out of your comfort zone, each day, and working hard to turn up opportunities — as perhaps a “B” student would? Are you a “C” student simply going through the motions and skating by doing the same things as anybody else? Or would even that high of a grade (gulp!) be generous?
Worth thinking about, I think. While nobody is ever going to formally audit your job search efforts, outside of perhaps a cursory review from the unemployment office, I think more people are watching how you approach this process than you realize — and that their willingness to lend a helping hand, or hire you, will be affected by their perception of how well you’ve been “helping yourself” along the way!